The aim of the Swiss company Asyril is to improve the performance of assembly robots. It uses sophisticated image processing systems to make it easier for robots in production to reach for bulk material components, relying on an innovative idea and on industrial cameras from SVS-Vistek.Click edit button to change this text.
At almost every automation trade fair in recent years, various companies have attempted to realize the famous “bin picking”, i.e. the gripping of disordered components by a robot. Despite enormous progress in the field of robotics and image processing, this task still poses a great challenge. The reasons for this are obvious: Before a robot can grip a component, an image processing system must first reliably recognize it, calculate its orientation, and then communicate the position and orientation of the gripping points to the robot. In conventional technology, this is still a slow, multi-stage process (recognition, gripping, putting things right, gripping with correct orientation). If the components to be gripped are chaotically mixed up and partially concealed, the safe and fast gripping of individual parts with one grip often becomes an almost unsolvable problem.
Asyril takes an intelligent approach to this task, which is frequently encountered in industry: The Swiss company builds fast, highly efficient feeding systems for pick & place robots and works with a trick that is simple at first glance but very innovative in detail: The bulk material objects lying next to and on top of each other in a box are guided via a feeding hopper to a vibration platform, where they are separated and brought into a position that allows easy access by the robot.
The vibration platform of the Asycube feeder allows controlled movement and separation of bulk material objects. (Image source: Asyril)
Vibration in three axes
The basic idea of the Swiss goes far beyond what conventional mechanical systems such as the well-known vibrating bowls can achieve, explains Asyril product manager Aymeric Simonin: “The special feature of our high-performance feeding systems is that the results of an integrated image processing system are used to control the vibrations of the platform in such a way that the objects are singled out in a targeted manner. The specialized vision system delivers the necessary data almost in real time, ensuring that the parts are isolated and brought into a gripping position that is optimal for the robot. After separating the parts via intelligent vibrations, the image processing system communicates the position and orientation data of the components to be optimally gripped to the pick-and-place robot, for which access is child’s play. In order to optimize the speed of object recognition, the system sends the information of the first detected, well-placed components to the robot before the entire image is evaluated.
The technical basis for this approach is a flexible feeder called Asycube. This is an innovative patented 3-axis vibration technology, which Asyril developed itself, manufactures in-house and uses in its high-performance feeding systems. The high-quality actuators can be controlled in terms of strength, frequency and duration enabling a fast and smooth movement of the components on the vibrating platform.
The video gives an impression of the possibilities of the Asycube technology.
Economical image processing
The second core element of the Asyril flexible feeding solution is an integrated vision system called SmartSight that assesses the quality of the separation and determines the position of the next optimally positioned parts with the knowledge of the robot gripper’s capabilities. “An economical design was also important to us for this part of the overall system,” stresses Aymeric Simonin. The Swiss company therefore opted for an EXO camera from SVS-Vistek, which not only captures the image but also controls the light, making an additional strobe controller unnecessary. “This enabled us to reduce the hardware costs for the entire system and to operate incident and transmitted light with short flash times directly from the camera’s power outputs,” says M. Simonin, describing the image processing setup. The timings for light and exposure come directly from the camera’s hardware I/O module, which controls the electrical processes with its integrated sequencer.
“Our technology is very flexible and is suitable for loose parts and components of all geometries with sizes ranging from less than 0.1 mm up to 150 mm,” says Aymeric Simonin. According to M. Simonin, the product also enables extremely gentle feeding of parts, which can be a decisive criterion depending on the application.
Thanks to their modular design, Asyril’s Asycube feeders can be quickly and flexibly adapted to the properties of the objects. This flexibility is ensured not only by easily exchangeable hardware modules, but also by easy-to-use PC-based image processing, emphasises Simonin: “When switching to other products, the advantages of a programmable feeder become particularly obvious: configuration is carried out via software and saves expensive hardware set-up times. Especially in markets with very short product life cycles, this is a big advantage”.
For the realisation of their SmartSight visual part detection system, Asyril works together with the system integrator Fabrimex from Volketswil, who, as a partner of SVS-Vistek, completes their innovative camera technology to tailor-made optical solutions from a single source. The development of Asyril enables robots to access individual parts or bulk material more quickly, which leads to considerable increases in efficiency. “We were rooted in the high quality demanding Swiss watch industry, but the benefits of our technology are now very popular in many other markets such as the automotive, medical and electronics industry,” says M. Simonin. “With Asycube SmartSight, we can offer users a fast alternative to the still slow and highly complex bin picking and thus increase the productivity of the robots used.“
The advantages of material feeding through the innovative Asycube solutions are now also paying off in other ways: At the end of 2018, Asyril was awarded a prize in the category “Components for Handling and Assembly” at the MOTEK trade fair in Stuttgart.